Hog Calls

UA women's programs on the rise

Arkansas' Chelsea Dungee drives past Alabama's Shaquera Wade during a game Thursday, Jan. 24, 2019, in Fayetteville. The Razorbacks won 72-61.

FAYETTEVILLE -- When Jeri Thorpe confirms another's observation this could be the best all-round year of the last 25 in University of Arkansas women's athletics, it no longer remains an observation.

It becomes fact.

Jeri's all-facets involvement in UA women's sports information commenced in 1994. She began as an intern promoted to assistant then director of women's sports information when the UA women's program operated as Lady Razorbacks until former Razorbacks Athletic Director Jeff Long combined the programs.

Since then Thorpe has assisted media relations both in men's and women's programs but mostly serves directing the women's basketball and women's golf media operations.

So she's seen it all. She likes what she's seen so far after an autumn with Lance Harter's Razorbacks winning SEC Cross Country and Colby Hale's soccer Razorbacks, 14-6-1 and 6-3-1 in the SEC, going two rounds deep into the NCAA Tournament.

This winter she's seen Harter -- the head coach of cross country, indoor and outdoor track with the only two national championships won by a UA women's team -- gunning for his 14th consecutive SEC crown. His Razorbacks not only are favored to win the SEC Indoor but currently are rated No. 1 nationally for the NCAA Indoor. The mesh of Harter's distance runners, associate head coach Chris Johnson's sprinters and field events coach Bryan Compton's pole vaulters looked every bit No. 1 dominating a strong field that included Oregon, LSU and Florida at last weekend's Razorback Invitational at the Randal Tyson Track. Outdoors they appear ripe to contend both for conference and national championships.

Basketball coach Mike Neighbors, just a season and a half removed from inheriting a 13-17, 2-14 in the SEC team under his predecessor for 2016-2017, accelerates his 2018-2019 Razorbacks to 16-5 overall, 5-2 in the SEC. They ride a four-game SEC winning streak, including triumphing over traditional power Tennessee in Knoxville, Tenn., heading into hosting SEC women's powers Georgia and South Carolina Thursday and Sunday at Walton.

Coach Mark Cook's Gym'Backs are annual regulars at NCAA Gymnastics Regionals and flock fans to Walton Arena.

Brooke Schultz, 2018 NCAA diving champion/2020 U.S. Olympic candidate, brings national attention to the swimming and diving program of Arkansas Coach Neil Harper and diving coach Dale Schultz.

Coach Shauna Taylor's golfers return a strong senior class off last spring's SEC champions while she continues an assembly line of UA grads to the LPGA Tour. This spring Taylor's team not only defends its SEC championship but hosts the NCAA Women's Championship May 18-22 at The Blessings.

Both volleyball, 11-17 last year but 19-11 the previous year under Coach Jason Watson, and tennis, under new Coach Courtney Steinbock, 20-4 in 2018 at Houston, strive to regain past NCAA qualifying form.

Overall, Thorpe was asked, how has the program's success become so contagious sport to sport?

"Clearly we have great people in place," Thorpe said. "And great resources. And we are getting the right student-athletes, and it's come together."

Sports on 01/30/2019